Dog Love

This is Gemma. This pretty girl just had her 6th birthday. She’s been with us since she was 8 weeks old when I could hold her little piglet body in my two cupped hands. She was an anniversary gift. IMG_3619She has brought so much joy and amusement to our lives. She is our morning walking partner. Our hiking and snow shoeing companion. Ball catcher extraordinaire. Excitable home coming greeter. Protector of her people and her property. Foot warmer. Day brightener. A loyal and cherished member of our family. IMG_5593She’s gentle with the babies, and patiently puts up with them chasing her, or sitting and lying on her when they visit at our home.IMG_4938And even endures cuddling with Riley, our cat.IMG_5594

Happy birthday Sweet Gemma. You’re such a good girl.

“Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift.”

~Mary Oliver

Toadstool Seating Area

 

A few months ago I was in a public children’s garden in San Luis Obisbo and I came across these enchanting toadstool seats made out of tree rounds. About the same time, we had a Gray Pine that came down on our property during a storm. Wanting to create something similar for our little ones here at home, we set to work. I am so pleased with the results.

First, I cleared a path by removing large cobbles under some oaks. We chose pieces from the trunk of the pine that had the least damage to them and cut each down to size with a chain saw, and then placed them in the setting under the oaks.IMG_5416Next, we added gravel and raked it in for the path. During a trip to Home Depot we found this circular piece, and once home, my husband nailed the circular piece to the center round to make a table. I then brushed a coat of primer over the table top and the tops to each chair.

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Once the primer was dry I added three coats of exterior red paint, and then to make the white dots, I used a round make up sponge, painting directly on the sponge and then stamping each polka dot with that.IMG_5445 A clear protective coat was brushed on the finished table and chairs to try to protect it from the elements, but I also plan to cover the area with a tarp during storms.

Our dear grand children, ages two and a half, and fifteen months spent two days with us over the weekend. This little toadstool table and chairs was definitely a hit. For snacks, climbing, and exploring, it’s a special place just their size. Pull up a toadstool and have a seat!

Breakfast on the Porch

Especially after a string of very busy days, isn’t there something so decadent about a slow Sunday morning? Sleeping in, taking the pooch for a walk and then having a leisurely breakfast while reading the paper feels like a true luxury.  A favorite recipe for these kinds of mornings is Barefoot Contessa’s Herb Scrambled Eggs. So simple. So fresh and flavorful. The recipe in the link is for serving a crowd, so obviously I just cut it down for the two of us. As you can see by my photos, I cook the eggs with the herbs in the mix, and I didn’t have whole milk or half and half in the fridge so I substituted just a splash of cream.IMG_5411IMG_5412IMG_5413Taking breakfast out on the porch makes it even better!
IMG_5297IMG_5353Look closely and you’ll see a zippy little friend who came to join us for his own breakfast! Happy Sunday to you.

The Blessings of Friendship and Love

Once a month my Book Group friends and I gather at one of homes for a few hours of  discussion on books, current events, both happy and sad news, great restaurants, movies, theater, and so much more. Over dessert and drinks, we share life together. The ten women who make up this group of genuine friends are intelligent, caring, generous, kind, opinionated, and strong.

Over the last few years, two of our members have passed away, two have gone through divorces, there have been deaths of spouses and parents, health hardships, and we’ve all felt the immense joy of becoming  grandmothers. Through all of life’s moments we hold together, hugging, laughing, loving, crying, comforting and cheering each other on. Each year the bonds that connect us grow ever stronger.

Last night, another milestone event brought us all together again. Under twinkling lights in the gorgeous gardens at Boeger Winery, we celebrated and witnessed the true bliss and deep love between one of our members, Kathy, and her beloved Charlie as they exchanged vows. The evening was magical.

IMG_5421IMG_5422IMG_5420IMG_5438IMG_5436IMG_5448IMG_5426IMG_5441IMG_5443I am so grateful to have these phenomenal women in my life and I cherish our friendships. Here’s to our devoted friendships. Here’s to love, sweet love. Cheers!

 

 

Nests

Nest – a pocket-like, usually more or less circular structure of twigs, grass, mud, etc., formed by a bird, often high in a tree, as a place in which to lay and incubate its eggs and rear its young; any protected place used by a bird for these purposes.IMG_5400 I have an fondness for nests, it’s true. I readily admit to getting excited when I see signs of a nest being built in the nooks and crannies of our porch in the spring. I watch and hope that the nests will be strong enough to withstand gusty winds, and that they will be safe from predators. Just think of all the work that goes into building these little temporary homes that will house and protect  families of birds for a season. It’s so interesting to see the intricate craftsmanship of each one; twigs and grasses, and wisps of fluff for some added softness.

IMG_5396Right about the same time that my second son moved out of the house, my husband and I rented a cabin in Hope Valley for the weekend. We noticed this nest perched up on the roof eave and watched all weekend to see if it was empty or if a feathered friend was using it. Sure enough, it was vacant. Before we left to go home, my sweet husband climbed up and brought it safely down for me. An empty nest for this mama who was grieving through her own transition of an empty nest. Thus, the start of a collection ensued.

IMG_5393Here’s a few more. I keep them on the porch on a vintage baker’s rack. I find some of them, and friends and relatives give me ones they find. Look up in the left corner of this photo to see a hummingbird nest given to me by a friend. It’s the size of half a golf ball, and still attached to its branch.

IMG_5395Here’s one from New Mexico that was at my brother, Jim’s house. Look at the dryer sheets that were used in building this little sanctuary! It was discovered while I was visiting, and we carefully took it down and packed it in a box that would then travel home with me in my luggage. Another came home with me from South Bend, Indiana, wrapped up safely and boxed by my Aunt Lois.

IMG_5394 Because each one is fragile and because they’re outside, they may only last on my shelves for a year or two. I usually have between five to eight at one time.

Each one, a work of art. Each one, a temporary home that sheltered and kept a family safe. Each one, a treasure.

Ironstone Vineyard

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IMG_5305Today we set out to visit Calaveras Big Trees State Park in the town of Arnold, but when we arrived at the entrance gate we were turned away. Turns out we weren’t the only people thinking a visit to the park was a good idea. We, and all the others arriving when we did were told that the park was at capacity and we could come back at 3:00. Well, that wasn’t going to work for us and so away we drove, feeling disappointed. We decided that a stop and in the delightful town of Murphys on our way home was in order. With fabulous restaurants, art galleries, shops and wine tasting…what’s not to love? While in Murphys, we stopped at Ironstone Winery and walked the glorious garden trails.

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IMG_5323We thoroughly enjoyed meandering along the trails, taking notice of the incredible beauty at every turn. Not a bad trade off at all; in fact, quite lovely.IMG_5322

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IMG_5333 A wedding area! Isn’t it beautiful with all of the white impatiens and chairs against the gorgeous green background? IMG_5318

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IMG_5336The grounds are planted with hundreds of azaleas and rhododendrons. Just imagine these trails in the spring when all of the blossoms are bursting. We’ll surely be back then to see that spectacular display! And in the meantime, we’ll try another day to visit Big Trees State Park.

 

Day Hike at Echo Lake

Ten miles south of Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada Mountains lies one of our favorite destinations for local hiking and snowshoeing. This jewel is Echo LakeIMG_5191IMG_5198Just look at this view of every shade of green. Isn’t it breathtaking?IMG_5206Nestled in between granite peaks and towering trees, this glacial lake in the Desolation Wilderness sits at an elevation of 7414 feet.
IMG_5220Surrounded by nature’s infinite beauty, we easily found tranquility from a stressful world, hiking the 2.5 mile trail that runs parallel to Echo Lake and then back again.
IMG_5218IMG_5214And if things couldn’t get any better, we came upon this surprise!IMG_5230Then this!IMG_5223So many gifts in front of us.IMG_5226 I put this little heart treasure in my pocket to take home with me! A lovely souvenir of this wonderful September day.